Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., has joined a bipartisan group of legislators to introduce a bill that would reauthorize the Appalachian Regional Commission for five more years.
The ARC, which has been around for 50 years, is a regional economic development authority that acts as a partnership between federal, state and local governments.
Today, 13 states make up the commission. West Virginia is the only state that lies entirely within the commission, which stretches from New York to Mississippi.
The legislation introduced by Capito and Sens. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., Kristen Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Ben Cardin D-Md., would fund the program at $100 million over the next five years, including $10 million annually to improve rural Internet services.
President Lyndon Johnson established the Appalachian Regional Commission in 1965. Since then, the program has created thousands of jobs, expanded access to health care, improved transportation and infrastructure and provided assistance to new businesses across the 13-state region.
All told, the agency has distributed nearly $4 billion to important projects, including nearly $5.2 million to West Virginia last year.
Last month the program released a report analyzing the region’s socioeconomic trends over the past 50 years. Statistics show the program has worked.